Monday, January 22, 2024

Music Week

January archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 41696 [41641] rated (+55), 19 [22] unrated (-3).

I wrote a pretty substantial Speaking of Which over the weekend, including more on the ongoing genocide in Gaza, and on why Israel wants to see the rest of the Middle East up in flames, figuring that will force the Americans into the fight, as opposed to their usual role, which is giving Israel arms, money, and advice (which they are freer than ever to ignore, although Netanyahu was more public than usual in slapping Biden down over the two-state fantasy). I've added a couple more links since initial posting (look for the red right-border stripe), and will probably add a few more before (or after) this gets posted.

Also stuff there on Iowa and New Hampshire, as Republicans continue to embrace the criminality their leaders have been promoting at least since Nixon.

I haven't made anything like a transition to knuckling down on the book yet. A big chunk of last week went to adding all of the Jazz Critics Poll ballots to my EOY aggregate. The result was, predictably enough, a massive surge for jazz albums in the overall standings:

  1. Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((World War)) (International Anthem)
  2. James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: For Mahalia With Love (Tao Forms)
  3. Jason Moran: From the Dancehall to the Battlefield (Yes)
  4. Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Five: In the Garden (Constellation)
  5. Steve Lehman/Orchestre National de Jazz: Ex Machina (Pi)
  6. Kris Davis: Diatom Ribbons Live at the Village Vanguard (Pyroclastic)
  7. Tyshawn Sorey: Continuing (Pi)
  8. Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Dynamic Maximum Tension (Nonesuch)
  9. Lakecia Benjamin: Phoenix (Whirlwind)
  10. Irreversible Entanglements: Protect Your Light (Impulse!)

I expect those standings to slide back down over the next week, although I'm still searching specifically for jazz lists. Since I finished with the ballots, I've already seen one change, where Jaimie Branch pulled back ahead of James Brandon Lewis -- the former has had quite a bit of crossover list support, but only came in 9th in the Poll. Matana Roberts, Lakecia Benjamin, and Irreversible Entanglements also do somewhat better away from the jazz critics.

I haven't added Brad Luen's Expert Witness Poll results in yet, but did manage to pick up some individual ballots. A late expansion of Greg Morton's list led me to Brazilian singer Patricia Bastos this week. I also picked up two more A- titles from the extraordinary Hip Hop Golden Age list. I also happened on some pretty decent electronica while adding Mixmag's 169 albums to the aggregate. And when I got hard up for something to play at the moment, I dipped into the 2024 queue, usually (not always) finding items that are already out.

I'll probably spend some more time wrapping up the EOY aggregate, and checking out some of the albums I'm only now finding out about, but should be winding that down this week. I also have a few things on the Jazz Critics Poll left to wrap up, and some mail I haven't gotten to. I also have a database update to the Robert Christgau website almost ready to go.

New records reviewed this week:

Agust D: D-Day (2023, Big Hit Music): South Korean rapper Min Yoon-gi, also known as Suga, joined K-pop boy band BTS in 2013, Agust D was the name of a mixtape he released in 2016, followed by a second mixtape in 2020 (D-2), and this, his first proper solo album. In Korean, so this waxes and wanes on the beats, which clearly have some money behind them. B+(*) [sp]

Altin Gün: Ask (2023, Glitterbeat): Mostly Turkish psychedelic rock band, based in Amsterdam, fifth album since 2018. B+(*) [sp]

B. Cool-Aid: Leather Blvd. (2023, Lex): Hip-hop duo from Long Beach, producers Ahwlee and Pink Siifu (Livinston Matthews), keeping it cool. B+(*) [sp]

Ballister: Smash and Grab (2022 [2024], Aerophonic): Sixth group outing for saxophonist Dave Rempis's fiercest group, a trio with Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello/electronics) and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). I'm probably losing all credibility on him. I'm certainly getting used to the rough stuff -- although even here, they set up sublime moments. A- [cd]

Patricia Bastos: Vos Da Taba (2023, self-released): Brazilian singer-songwriter, from Macapá, just north of the Amazon delta, seventh studio album since 2002. Exceptionally delightful. A- [sp]

Big O: In the Company of Others (2023, Vintage Soundz): London-based hip-hop producer, possibly Oliver Moore (Discogs offers the name, but only lists one album and one EP, the latter from 1996; on the other hand, Bandcamp shows no less than 44 releases, but most behind other leaders). Feat. guests everywhere, many with scratches by gman. B+(*) [bc]

Black Milk: Everybody Good? (2023, Mass Appeal): Detroit rapper Curtis Cross, eighth albums ince 2005. B+(*) [sp]

Blonde Redhead: Sit Down for Dinner (2023, Section1): Indie band from New York, tenth album since 1994, fronted by Kazu Makino, with brothers Amedeo and Simone Pace. B+(*) [sp]

Apollo Brown & Planet Asia: Sardines (2023, Mello Music Group): Detroit hip-hop producer Erik Stephens, has dropped an album (or two or three) every year since 2009, this one featuring rapper Jason Green, who's been even more prolific for longer (since 2000) but has previously escaped my attention -- as has everyone else working out of Fresno. B+(***) [sp]

John Butcher/Dominic Lash/Emil Karlsen: Here and How (2022 [2023], Bead): English avant-saxophonist, released half dozen albums in 2023 but this was one of the few I managed to find, a trio with bass and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Rasheed Chappell & the Arcitype: Sugar Bills (2023, Project City Music Group): New Jersey rapper, sixth album since 2011, with producer Janos Fulop. This runs up against my distaste for "gangsta shit" (as HHGA rather circumspectly put it: "traditional hip-hop . . . a great emcee who is in turn with golden -age aesthetics") but this carries that deadly weight better than any album I've heard in years (maybe since Ghostface Killah?). A- [sp]

Gerald Cleaver: 22/23 (2023, Positive Elevation/577): Normally a drummer, produces electronics here, with some voice (both him and Jean Carla Rodea) and sax (Andrew Dahlke). Runs 22 tracks, 169 minutes, on and on, one suspects the excess is the point. [LP selects 6 (of 22) tracks, for 32:26. Probably just a sampler, as if a taste is all you need.] B+(***) [sp]

Declaime and Theory Hazit: Rocketman (2023, SomeOthaShip): Rapper Dudley Perkins, dozen-plus albums since 2001, with producer Thearthur Washington. Deep, out of this world yet very much within it, loses the thread of the music when he declares his belief in God, yet through some miracle keeps you connected anyway. A- [sp]

Mike Flips/Nord1kone/Seize: Life Cycles (2023, SpitSLAM): The MC answered one question by pronouncing his name "nordic-one." Flanked here by two producers, Flips at least from UK. B+(**) [sp]

Anne Foucher & Jean-Marc Foussat: Chair Ça (2022 [2024], Fou): Violin/electronics, and "Synthi AKS, piano, jouets & voix," which I guess explains the sonic range here, but not enough to describe it. B+(***) [cd]

Jean-Marc Foussat/Daunik Lazro: Trente-Cinq Minutes & Vingt-Trois Secondes (2023 [2024], Fou): Title the sum of three constituent pieces, Credits: "méchanisme instinctif et résonnant" and "kaléidophone ténor." File under "drone" or "noise," but more interesting than that implies. B+(***) [cd]

Satoko Fujii Tokyo Trio: Jet Black (2023 [2024], Libra): Japanese avant-pianist, well over 100 albums, nice to hear her in a conventional trio setting, this with Takashi Sugawa (bass) and Ittetsu Takamura (drums). B+(***) [cd] [01-24]

Peter Gabriel: I/O (2023, Real World): British singer-songwriter, started in prog rock band Genesis, released a series of eponymous albums 1977-82, this 10th album is first since 2011, but it incorporates earlier work going back to 1995, and comes in two mixes ("Bright Side" and "Dark Side"), each 12 songs and well over an hour. Pleasant enough, but interminable. B+(*) [sp]

Geese: 3D Country (2023, Partisan): Brooklyn-based alt-rock band, second album, dubbed "art punk," compared to outfits like Black Midi, which might seem interesting until the time shifts and odd eruptions turn super-annoying. B- [sp]

Gorillaz: Cracker Island (2023, Parlophone/Warner): Cartoon band, founded 2001 by Damon Albarn, who seems to have been the only regular, aside from illustrator Jamie Hewlett: the other principal musician here is Greg Kurstin, with a bunch of guests dropping in for one song each (Thundercat, Stevie Nicks, Tame Impala, Beck, etc.). Albarn's always had a good sense for hooks, but I grew tired of the mask some time back, and now it all just sounds anonymous (except the title cut is rather catchy). B [sp]

Marina Herlop: Nekkuja (2023, Pan): Spanish singer, songwriter and pianist, fourth album, electroacoustic experiments, short (7 songs, 26:35). B+(*) [sp]

Gregory Alan Isakov: Appaloosa Bones (2023, Dualtone): Singer-songwriter from South Africa, moved to Philadelphia when he was seven, wound up in Boulder, Colorado. Eighth album since 2003. Seems like a thoughtful but not especially engaging guy. B [sp]

Ethan Iverson: Technically Acceptable (2024, Blue Note): Pianist, made a big impression with his early Fresh Sound releases, followed with a rare commercial breakthrough as the Bad Plus, left them in 2017, continues to write a very smart blog. Two bass-drums trios here -- Thomas Morgan/Kush Abadey and Simón Willson/Vinnie Sperrazza -- and a couple of covers (one I love, followed by a vocal I hate), ending with a three-part solo sonata. Appropriately titled. B+(*) [sp]

Ja'king the Divine: Parables of the Sower (2023, Copenhagen Crates): Brooklyn rapper, half-dozen albums since 2021. His fascination with things oriental led to the album title Black Sun Tzu. Here he raps over a particularly sinuous "Caravan." [sp]

Benjamin Koppel/Scott Colley/Brian Blade: Perspective (2023, Cowbell Music): Danish alto saxophonist, 30+ albums since 1998, has worked with this bass-drums combo since 2011. B+(**) [sp]

Benjamin Koppel: White Buses: Passage to Freedom (2023, Cowbell Music): In 1943, as the Nazis were consolidating their occupation of Denmark, some 90% of Danish Jews managed to escape into Sweden, thus avoiding the Holocaust. That much is fairly widely known, but this draws on a lesser-known incident near the end of the war, when the Swedish Red Cross sent white buses to Theresienstadt, where another 425 Danish Jews were held, and affected their liberation. This narrates that story, along with some inspiring music, led by the Danish alto saxophonist. B+(***) [sp]

Talib Kweli & Madlib: Liberation 2 (2023, Luminary): A sequel 16 years later, runs longer (45:51), is even harder to find. With politics that deserve wider airing, but thinned out with more ambient breaks. B+(***) [sc]

Oliver Lake/Mathias Landæus/Kresten Osgood: Spirit (2017 [2023], Sfär): Alto sax, piano, drums. Lake is a bit erratic, but impresses more often than not. B+(**) [bc]

Lalalar: En Kötü Iyi Olur (2023, Bongo Joe): Turkish group, second album. Vibe reminiscent of several Balkan rock groups. B+(***) [sp]

Dave Lombardo: Rites of Percussion (2023, Ipecac): Drummer, born in Cuba but moved to California when he was two. Best known as drummer in the thrash metal band Slayer, but also in Fantômas (based on a French anti-hero, "waging an implacable war against the bourgeois society in which he moves"). I've run across him once before, when he joined DJ Spooky on a 2005 Thirsty Ear album called Drums of Death. Solo here, so more drums of death? B+(**) [sp]

Van Morrison: Accentuate the Positive (2023, Exile/Virgin): Second release of a covers set this year, reminds you that while he used to be a pretty great songwriter, he's still a terrific singer. Advantage here is in the songs, moving from the country-folk roots of Moving on Skiffle to rhythm and blues and rock and roll, although he's loose enough on the concept to include the Mercer-Arlen title song, and to start off with a "You Are My Sunshine" that proves to be a high point. Elsewhere, lots of nits one can pick, but really too much fun for that. B+(**) [sp]

Riley Mulherkar: Riley (2021-22 [2024], Westerlies): Trumpet player, from Seattle, a co-founder of the Westerlies, debut album, with Chris Pattishall (piano) and Rafiq Bhatia both credited with programming and sound design, on a mix of originals and vintage covers ("Stardust," "King Porter Stomp"). B+(***) [cd] [02-16]

Estee Nack: Nacksaw Jim Duggan (2023, Griselda): Another rapper I'd never heard of, Alex Rosario, of Lynn, Mass., but Discogs credits him with 25 albums since 2015, and offers 11 distinct editions of this title (but no CD). Rather fractured, with a long riff on Dominicans in the drug trade. B+(*) [sp]

Ndox Electrique: Tëd ak Mame Coumba Lamba ak Mame Coumba Mbang (2023, Bongo Joe): Traditional n'doëp community vocal group from Cap-Vert in Senegal, remixed by François R. Cambuzat and Gianna Greco (who also produced Ifriqiyya Electrique), who bring the beats, and some heavy machinery. B+(*) [sp]

Noertker's Moxie: In Flitters: 49 Bits From B*ck*tt (2023, Edgetone): Bassist, recordings go back to 2003's Sketches of Catalonia, with a cover reminiscent of Miles Davis's Sketches of Spain (or maybe Billy Jenkins' Scratches of Spain, a superior album [imho]), but then expanded into multi-volume suites for Dali, Miró, and Gaudi. Here the inspiration is Samuel Beckett's Watt, a novel I bought long ago and never managed to read, but evidently of interest to jazzbos (it's the name of Carla Bley's record label). It's put to good use here, with Annelise Zamula (clarinet/flute), Brett Carson (piano), and Jordan Glenn (drums). No idea what's up with the asterisks. B+(***) [cd]

Hery Paz: Jardineros (2021 [2023], 577): Cuban saxophonist (also flute, piano, suona), based in New York, first album, backed by drums (Francisco Mela) and percussion (Román Diaz, also credited for vocals -- basically a spoken narration, in Spanish). B+(**) [sp]

Shaheed & DJ Supreme: The Art of Throwing Darts (2023, Communicating Vessels): Hip-hop duo from Birmingham, second album. Has an old school air, the words (doubled up?) coming so fast and hard they effectively are the rhythm. B+(***) [sp]

Shakti: This Moment (2023, Abstract Logix): Indian supergroup formed by English guitarist John McLaughlin in 1975-77, was revived in 1997 for a series of "Remember Shakti" albums, and now again here, with McLaughlin and Zakir Hussain (tabla) returning, joined by Selvaganesh Vinayakaram (kanjira) and Shankar Mahadevan (vocals) from the 1990s, and Ganesh Rajagopalan (violin). B+(*) [sp]

Louis Siciliano: Ancient Cosmic Truth (2023, Musica Presente, EP): Italian trumpet player, seems to have mostly worked on film music, aims for some kind of Miles Davis fusion here, and is mostly successful, for four songs, 22:42. B+(**) [sp]

Antero Sievert: Dear Bossa (2023, JMI): Spanish pianist, second album, a "pan-Latin musical journey" with Pedrito Martinez (Cuban percussion), Edmar Castaneda (Colombian harp), and Elena Pinderhughes (Bay Area flute), plus bassist Corcoran Holt, and a bit of trumpet I'd like to hear more from. B+(***) [sp]

Guilty Simpson: Escalation (2023, Uncommon): Detroit rapper Byron Dwayne Simpson, debut 2008, came up working with J. Dilla and Madlib, produced here by Uncommon Nasa (Paul Loverro). B+(**) [sp]

Josh Sinton: Couloir & Book of Practitioners Vol. 2: Book W (2023 [2024], Form Is Possibility, 2CD): Solo baritone saxophone, the second a volume of Steve Lacy "etudes" -- Sinton led the Lacy tribute band Ideal Bread -- the first originals that are hard to distinguish from Lacy's models. B+(***) [cd]

Alex Sipiagin Quintet: Mel's Vision (2022 [2023], Criss Cross): Russian trumpet/flugelhorn player, moved to US in 1990, has a steady stream of mainstream jazz albums since 1998. With Chris Potter (tenor sax), David Kikoski (piano), Matt Brewer (bass), and Johnathan Blake (drums). Two Sipiagin originals (including the unexplained title song), one from Potter, a Ukrainian folk song, and four modern jazz covers. Long (9 tracks, 71:18). B+(**) [sp]

Sister Zo: Arcana (2023, All Centre, EP): New York-based electronica artist, has at least one previous EP, this one 4 exquisitely balanced rhythm tracks, 17:38. Remarkably satisfying. A- [sp]

Chucky Smash: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (2023, King of the Beats): J. Samuels, part of a Bronx hip-hop trio called the Legion, which recorded some in the 1990s, with one more album from 2019. B+(*) [sp]

Spectacular Diagnostics: Raw Lessons (2023, Rucksack): Chicago hip-hop producer Robert Krums. Has several previous "Raw" titles (Raw Unknown, Raw Studies). B+(**) [sp]

Marnie Stern: The Comeback Kid (2023, Joyful Noise): Singer-songwriter, plays guitar and has a rep for that, fifth album since 2007, but ten years after her fourth. Pop overtones over something dense and mathy. B+(**) [sp]

The Dave Stryker Trio With Bob Mintzer: Groove Street (2023 [2024], Strikezone): Guitarist, has long settled into the organ groove tradition, releasing a new iteration each January. Trio names on cover: Jared Gold (organ) and McClenty Hunter (drums), with the saxophonist joining in, even contributing a couple of songs. B+(**) [cd] [01-24]

Sweeping Promises: Good Living Is Coming for You (2023, Sub Pop): Duo (Lira Mondal and Caufield Schnug), met as students in Arkansas, moved to Boston, recorded a pretty good album there, relocated to Lawrence, Kansas, where they recorded this sophomore effort. B+(**) [sp]

Emilio Teubal: Futuro (2021 [2023], Not Yet): Argentinian pianist, based in New York, first album 2009, mostly trio with bass (Pablo Lanouguere) and drums (Chris Michael or Brian Shankar Adler), with a few guests, like Sam Sadigursky (clarinet on three tracks) or Chris Dingman (vibes on three). B+(**) [sp]

V Knuckles & Phoniks: The Next Chapter (2023, Don't Sleep): Boston rapper Rahim Muhammad, from the group N.B.S. [Natural Born Spitters], ten albums 2002-20, first solo album, produced by Phoniks (from Portland, ME). Old school vibe, some nice features. B+(***) [sp]

Yungmorpheus & Real Bad Man: The Chalice & the Blade (2023, Real Bad Man): California hip-hop artist Colby Campbell, a dozen-plus albums since 2016, working here with producer Adam Weissman. B+(**) [sp]

Yungmorpheus: From Whence It Came (2023, Lex): Another one, understated lyrics over minimal beats. B+(*) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Per 'Texas' Johansson: Alla Mina Kompisar (1998 [2023], Moserobie): Swedish reeds player, second album, plays tenor/baritone sax and clarinets here, with Fredrik Ljunkgvist (four saxes), Johan Lindström (pedal steel guitar), Dan Berglund (bass), and Mikel Ulfberg (drums). A- [sp]

Kenneth Kiesler/University of Michigan Opera Theatre: James P. Johnson: De Organizer/The Dreamy Kid (Excerpts) (2006 [2023], Naxos): I'm inclined to file classical music by the performer, with the composer included in the title, but even there the cover makes this difficult, as I wound up flipping the larger type order, and ignoring a long list of smaller-type names. (I did give into the obvious and listed this under Johnson in the Jazz Critics Poll standings, but figured I should be more consistent here.) Johnson (1894-1955) is widely recognized as an outstanding stride pianist, but his ambitions as a composer are less well known. James Dapogny, a superb stride pianist in his own right, arranged these two short operas, the former with lyrics by Langston Hughes, the latter Eugene O'Neill. I've never liked opera, but I can't help but applaud union organizers. B+(*) [sp]

Old music:

Talib Kweli/Madlib: Liberation (2007, Blacksmith Music): Rapper, last name Greene, broke out with Mos Def as Black Star in 1998, with Hi-Tek as Reflection Eternal in 2000, released a solo album in 2002. I found this one down after failing to find Liberation 2 (2023) on streaming. This was given away as a freebie for a week, then withdrawn, so is similarly scarce. Short (30:12), but the production is dazzling, and the guy is a thinker: "I went to college, then I left/ That's when I got my education." (Unlike the college dropouts who simply couldn't wait to get rich.) A- [yt]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Carlos "Bechegas"/Joao Madeira/Ulrich Mitzlaff: Open in Finder (4DaRecord) [11-13]
  • Mina Cho: "Beat Mirage" (International Gugak Jazz Institute) [02-09]
  • Hands & Tongues: 3 Meta-Dialogues (4DaRecord) [12-08]
  • Richard Nelson/Makrokosmos Orchestra: Dissolve (Adhyâropa) [02-02]
  • Samo Salamon/Vasil Hadzimanov/Ra-Kalam Bob Moses: Dances of Freedom (Samo) [01-15]
  • Matthew Shipp/Steve Swell: Space Cube Jazz (RogueArt) [01-15]
  • Ches Smith: Laugh Ash (Pyroclastic) [02-02]

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